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Free Arts Month: a raucous First Night and the quiet Mary Boze Gallery

Post by Rosemary Ponnekanti / The News Tribune on Jan. 2, 2011 at 10:00 pm |
January 2, 2011 10:00 pm
In the First Night parade co-organizer Patrice O'Neill holds up a giant rabbit puppet by Annette Matteo, symbolizing the new year in the Chinese Zodiac. Photo: Lui Kit Wong, News Tribune.

Jan. 1: Well, here I am beginning my month of free arts events. As posted recently, I’m attempting to attend a free arts event every day of this month, just to show you all how much great stuff there is out there without any budget at all. Yesterday was a work-free holiday, so I’m posting my January 1 event today, although technically it was partly on December 31. Confusing, eh? But what I saw Friday night was First Night, the arts-based celebration downtown of the New Year, and it ran from 6:30 p.m. til after midnight, straddling the two days (and years.)

And it was a lot of fun. Yes, if you buy the $10 button you can get into many more shows (and get warm) but this year offered more free outdoor entertainment than ever. I turned up at the Tully’s on Broadway just as the parade was beginning up the road at Sanford and Sons, and the music was already contagious. To the bopping “Jump in the line” (love you, Harry Belafonte!!) played by wacky marching band Titanium Sporkestra, the Harlequin Hipsters grooved along dressed in red and black stripes and frilly Victorian knickers, followed by the ever-funky Roller Derby Dames and the Yellow Hat Marching Band (not so groovy.) There was last year’s giant tiger puppet, white with lights in its paws, and this year’s Rabbit, thin and graceful in illuminated white paper.

Outside Theatre on the Square there was plenty of free stuff to do, if you could handle the 25-degree-cold: burning iron sand boxes where you could draw with a poker and make the flame follow your line (my kids loved that one!), a wish-tiger, burning 2011 numerals and bands like neo-50s  Jockomo and Titanium Sporkestra. The best part? Watching the Sporkestra’s trombonists blow fire through their horns – I’m kind of glad I don’t know how they did that one. When we got too cold we headed into Tully’s, where they probably wouldn’t have minded if you skipped the coffee line and just listened to the folk guitarists. I didn’t stay ‘til midnight (my kids burned out) but that bit was free too – more fire and dancing in the street. Love it.

Mirka Hokkanen, "Animal Pyramid - Deer." Courtesy photo.

Jan. 2: Today, something completely different. Sunday’s a good day to experience art in churches, and Tacoma’s got quite a few options for that. I headed down to Tahoma Unitarian Universalist Church on South 56th Street, where they’ve started up a gallery. It’s at the back of the church room (enter at South L Street, turn right inside) but it’s hung professionally, and the space is quiet and contemplative.

I’d expected to see John McCuistion’s ceramics, but they’d just installed local printmaker Mirka Hokkanen instead (watch my GO Arts page later this month for a profile.) Hokkanen specializes in the small, and around 12 of her tiny works and 16 medium prints were arranged on the white walls.

It’s obvious that Hokkanen loves woodland animals. Her lithographs, etchings, polymer plates and other prints are portraits of these little creatures with an arts-and-crafts line and delight in detail, every feather and fox-fur line delicately drawn. (Growing up in Finland, the artist says she spent lots of time roaming the forests and lakes.)

The larger animals tend to be romantic: deer, fox and raccoon with liquid eyes and sentimental poise. But in the tiny creatures, Hokkanen shines. A dormouse is tucked asleep into a furry ball, a mouse stands sentinel with a telescope (rather C.S. Lewis), and other mice clamber over Art Nouveau lettering with abandon.

My favorite was the group of mice scuttling along carrying safety pins and bottle caps, above the text “One man’s trash, another man’s treasure.”

This is a tucked-away little gallery but worth a visit – just try and avoid service times (11:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m. Sundays) unless you’re planning on attending.

If you go: Mirka Hokkanen’s “Animal Encounters” is up through Feb. 9, with an artist reception 12:15 p.m. Jan. 9. TUUC’s Mary Boze Gallery is open 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Sunday-Friday at 1115 S. 56th St., Tacoma (enter at South L Street and ring the bell outside service times.) 253-474-4646, www.tuuc-wa.org

Check back each day to see what else I’m experiencing!

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